Montgomery County's Board of Commissioners approved a $14 million budget request from the district attorney Tuesday despite concerns surrounding a criminal probe involving two of the panel's members.
Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel III asked Monday whether he could vote ethically on funding a department that was investigating him and fellow Commissioner James R. Matthews over alleged open-meeting-law violations. He recused himself from Tuesday's vote, citing conflicts of interest.
Matthews, however, saw no problem deciding on the 2011 funding for District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman's department. His vote gave the three-member board the quorum it needed to exempt her from mandated countywide budget cuts.
"With all respect to Joe, that's his feeling and I have mine," Matthews said. "I'm totally consistent in my position on this issue prior to being served [with a grand jury subpoena] and after being served."
On Dec. 3, Ferman announced that her office had launched a grand jury investigation targeting the two commissioners after they were reportedly overheard deciding county business during weekly breakfasts at an East Norriton diner. Such discussions, as alleged, would constitute a violation of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act.
Hoeffel and Matthews have denied that any improper talk occurred. But Hoeffel has used the budget issue to question whether Ferman's office should be leading the investigation. He has called for an outside agency - such as the Attorney General's Office - to take over, to avoid conflicts of interest.
The commissioners also approved requests waiving the mandated cuts from 11 other county departments during Tuesday's meeting.